The Big Holiday Shake Out, Pt. 3
It is so far from the holidays, I should really stop calling it the Holiday shake out, but I still feel like that is where we are. Holiday recovery is a real beast! It takes time! Or at least it takes time to write about it. We worked on the kitchen already. Toys and kids' things are next. Then I'll quickly get us to clothing and closets before the next holiday season is upon us, I promise. But for now, let's get to work!
Time to tackle toys and the kids' rooms. We have November birthdays, both Christmas and Hanukkah, and indulgent grandparents, aunts and uncles, who all feel it best to provide lots of wrapped goodies. We should all be so lucky! By the time January rolls around, the house is literally stuffed. I am more than ready to sort through the bounty and bring order back to our nest. I hope these tips help with organizing and maintaining order with toys. These take a lot of practice. I never said it would be easy.
1. Get the kids involved. Kids know what they like. They know what they want to play with. They know what fun looks like to them. What they may not know is what "too much" looks like. We need to teach them. More is not always better. More toys does not mean more fun if you can't find a place to sit and play with your toys. Or if your space is so cluttered with items that you spend all of your time deciding what to play with and barely find time to actually play. I know that the less my kids have, the more they end up using what they have thoughtfully. We only have two hands, one brain, and 24 hours in a day. Life doesn't give us unlimited resources for doing so we need not clutter our rooms with 5 lifetimes worth of stuff. Go through toys one by one. Like it? Keep it. Love it, but don't play with it and can't bear to part ways? Start a box for keepsakes. Get it out of the space. Old and worn? It goes. Kids know. Work together. Do not force your hand. Let them have a great deal of control here. Cleaning and organizing should not be about throwing things away. It should be about deliberate choices to keep what you want and what you care about most. Thank you, Marie Kondo. And let's say you didn't get very far because your child wanted to keep everything? Try again later. And remind them of their choice to hold on to everything when they next ask you for something while strolling through Target. That will get them thinking.
2. Plan a weekly/monthly toy shuffle. Toys get buried in the bottom of the toy box, and on the top shelf in the closet. I hate discovering a great toy that has been completely unloved and unused, simply because we didn't know it was there. In the afternoons when my kids come home from school, I pick one toy that has been "buried" and place it on the dining room table. After homework, I offer it up as our family activity. It feels like a gift! This "toy shuffle" allows us to keep our things in rotation, playing with "new" things, redistributing things so that we are always seeing fresh items to play with anew. It also gives me a chance to see how the toys are doing- what needs batteries, what has missing pieces. I really try to set the example for my to kids. We show great care for what we have by choosing to enjoy them, maintaining them, and keeping them organized. Toys are a privilege. Show them a little love.
3. Be realistic about what your children will actually play with. By now, though things may be tucked away in closets, I have a pretty good grasp of what is actually going to be enjoyed and loved and what might find a better home with others who will love it more. We receive duplicates of craft kits. We get two puzzles that both depict ocean scenes. We might get four board games that are great for children that are more interested in fantasy games. I feel no obligation to keep things we are gifted if they are simply going to sit there. It becomes a burden on my space and dare I say, my soul. More is not more. And I have to work really hard to not hold on to things because I want them for my kids. Pictures, school memories - that is different. But particular toys that I think are awesome but they pretty much ignore should be reconsidered. Or placed in my own room since I seem to want them so much.
4. Sell, donate, or re-gift. I personally love selling items on eBay. I enjoy the whole process and the seamless beauty of our digital economy. And I love making a little money while doing it. But I completely understand why many choose not to use eBay. It can be a huge time commitment and unless it is enjoyed, it probably is not worth the trouble. So donate toys that you can no longer justify keeping. Or hold them until the holidays, when you can make another child's holiday wish come true. Birthday parties are regular weekend events for us so having a nice stash of new, age-appropriate toys is a lovely stress-saver when dashing out the door at the last minute. Just keep them out of sight so that kids won't insist again that they want the toy, after a previous concession that it was ok to let it go.
5. Get a grip on the little stuff. Small plastic toys, bouncy balls, pencils, erasers, smelly markers, sparkly rings, and everything else that probably came from a party goody bag - should go in one basket or drawer. If your kids want to throw it away, better yet, but both of my little people LOVE this stuff. It stays together in one place. Once a year, we save what we love and chuck out everything else. They know that anything in this category that I retrieve from the floor is going to be trash so they are quite mindful to keep it put in its place. Other small things, like the 1.4 million Legos, are also given a designated home. We actually keep Lego sets all together in plastic bags, organized in a drawer but that really makes me sound nuts so I'll just pretend that we have stray pieces that need a home! Little pieces, when found, can be put in a little dish or box on their dresser, rescued from the vacuum, ready to be sent back with their friends at a later time.
5. Stop buying for no reason. This one is easy for me. This is how I grew up. This is how my kids grow up. We don't just buy because we can. Trips to the store are "looking" trips. We love seeing what there is to offer and we make a list that we keep until it is birthday time. We do not ever battle in the store because my kids are clear - we have a lot of wonderful things at home and buying something new is reserved for special occasions. We make exceptions for truly special outings, like the gift shop in Disneyland, but even then, we set a strict budget. Once you allow your children to believe that they can have anything, they will want everything. And your house, your pocketbook, and your sanity, will suffer the consequences. Establish rules about buying, and for goodness sake - stick to them.